Petronas Yamaha: We’re in a dream situation

After a stunning 1-2 for his riders in MotoGP qualifying, catches up with Petronas Yamaha Team Principle Johan Stigefelt to talk about a memorable day.
Petronas Yamaha: We’re in a dream situation

Johan Stigefelt, Team Principal for Petronas Yamaha, described Saturday as “a dream situation” after his riders scored a sensational one-two in MotoGP qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

Class rookie Fabio Quartararo and former Moto2 world champion Franco Morbidelli became the first team-mates from a satellite team to finish first and second in a premier class qualifying session since November, 2005 in a mind-boggling Q2 shootout.

Stigefelt cited recruitment, passion and talent as reasons behind the achievement in only the fourth premier class grand prix since SRT came into existence as a MotoGP force.

“We are in a dream situation,” Stigefelt told “The team is amazing. The characters in the team, too. Everyone in the team is so passionate. The thing is with this team compared to others, we’ve all been here from the beginning.

“And we built this team together. Everyone has contributed to make this team work. So this makes the difference from other teams that have maybe been here for years now. We have a lot of extra motivation, a lot of extra passion.

“Guys like me and Wilco [Zeelenberg – team manager], we’re former riders and we do this because we love this. We’re not here for any other reason. We’re passionate about this sport, about bikes. We’re privileged to be running this team.”

On Quartararo, now the youngest rider ever to score a premier class pole position at 20 years and 14 days old, Stigefelt revealed the Frenchman’s means of overcoming some early issues during testing, namely when braking.

“That’s something we said in Malaysia. We struggled a lot with this in Malaysia clearly. And then his crew chief, they pushed a lot. Of course he looked at Frankie’s data from that time and he learned from Frankie, Vale [Valentino Rossi] and Maverick [Viñales].

“It’s not that we changed the bike completely, it was him that changed his style, his way. We maybe did small things but he made the biggest change himself. 100 percent being honest, we basically don’t touch his bike.

“It’s like the same bike during the last three races. They have been very, very, very small changes. You wouldn’t believe it! At the moment he’s just enjoying and riding and doing his own work.”

As it became clear Dani Pedrosa was edging toward a retirement decision last June, Stigefelt and Sepang International Circuit CEO Razlan Razali surprised many for opting to secure Quartararo's services over many other established names.

On that particular choice, he said, “He had two good results at the time when we said, ‘Let’s go for Fabio.’ It was Barcelona and Assen. After Assen I said to Razlan, ‘We need to make a choice. And we need a young rider.’

“We had many other riders that were there. I would not call them old-timers but they had been there, done that. I said let’s start with a young, cheap guy and go. He said, ‘No problem, go for it.’

“On that same night at Assen I called him and his manager. From there it was very fast. It was like, let’s go for this youth team with a different mind and everyone can be happy instead of having an old rider who can be a little complicated, have his way of working, they want this and that. It’s really easy now.”

Had it not been for Quartararo’s sensational pole time of 1m 36.880s (a full seven tenths under Cal Crutchlow’s previous outright lap record), Morbidelli’s performance would have been the story of the day.

In Stigefelt’s eyes, the Italian’s relationship with new crew chief Ramon Forcada has been key to his fine start to the season, which includes a personal best MotoGP result of fifth at the last race in Austin.

“I mean, Franco and Ramon work super well together. It’s unbelievable. Ramon is very happy. Wilco has known Ramon for many years. He says he hasn’t seen him so happy in many years.

“Again it’s a new team that we built together. Ramon has contributed with many things. Even small things like making a flight case. ‘I have this idea and this idea.’

“Small details that make you feel you are more part of the team than playing a part in a big corporation. We’re unique in that way for this year at least. Next year we will be old! This year we are new.”

Does this showing change expectations for the year ahead? “Today we proved to everybody that we can do it. That’s the first thing. Especially we proved to our sponsor, because they, don’t put pressure, but they ask us.

“Today we showed them today that we can do this. Now this is over, it’s about the race tomorrow. Let’s see what happens. The race is different. 25 laps around here is very hard to manage the tyres, manage yourself, fighting… anything can happen.

“We have to see tomorrow. Today’s a good day.”